Catalina Martinez ’97, M.S. ’00, M.M.A. ’02, M.B.A. ’15

Degree: B.S. Zoology, M.S. Oceanography, M.M.A. Marine Affairs, M.B.A.

Career: Regional Program Manager, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Catalina Martinez has never backed away from learning something new. In fact, that practice has long been her method of operation — against cultural traditions and the odds. Told as a Cuban American child that education “wasn’t something for girls,” the former high school dropout from an urban poor environment now holds four degrees from the University of Rhode Island.

But Martinez is far more than her position, her degrees and her full complement of accomplishments and awards. She is the exception who is working to help change the rules. “In 21st century America, the fact that I am still an exception and not the rule is not acceptable. It’s not acceptable that opportunities are not equal across economic, racial and cultural lines, because we certainly all have the same potential,” she said.

You see, in addition to her multifaceted job with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Ocean Exploration and much more, this Latina is also dedicated to finding and encouraging the next generation of scientists from all different backgrounds. A frequent speaker at career and diversity events, Martinez discusses being a minority in a majority environment and shares tools to build resilience.

“I want students of all ages, cultures, and economic backgrounds to know that they can carve out a path to achieve their dreams and that education is the game changer,” she said. “I am living proof that anything is possible with dedication, hard work, and a self-built network of champions.”


Inspired by a popular social media series, the Humans of New York, Emma Lamy and Steven Leone launched their URI-centric riff on the phenomenon last year.